Call for concept notes for: Land Tenure Program Eastern DRC. Great Lakes Program

Netherlands Embassy, Kigali.

Duration: 4 years.

The Great Lakes (GL) Program of the Netherlands, managed by the Dutch Embassy in Kigali, intends to set up a land tenure program for Eastern DRC (called ‘the program’ henceforth). The embassy therefore invites organizations interested in implementing such a program, to submit a concept note for this program. The embassy will evaluate and compare the concept notes, based on which it will select and invite one or two organizations to prepare a full proposal.

Please find below the context and main features of the envisaged program. Key criteria that will used in the selection process are described at the end of this paper.

Please be aware that for budgetary reasons there may be a possibility that the program will ultimately not be awarded.

Questions can be submitted by email until 16 September.

  1. Submission deadline: 30 September 2020 at 12:00 Kigali time.
  2. Submit concept notes and questions to the Netherlands Embassy in Kigali by using both the following two email addresses: &

l. Introduction

Land disputes have proven to be a major destabilizing factor in Eastern DR Congo, and are therefore of key importance for achieving stability in the region. While many actors seem to be aware of this, land security is a complex matter to deal with. Therefore, the Great Lakes Program of the Netherlands, in cooperation with UN-Habitat and MONUSCO, supported the Ministry of Land Affairs in Kinshasa to organize a conference to discuss the complexities of land related-conflicts in Eastern DRC.

This conference was held in Bukavu in June 2019, in close collaboration with universities in Europe and in the DRC as well as with civil society organisations. It was attended by 250 people representatives from all levels of government, civil society, traditional leaders and national and international experts.

From the conference emerged a strong level of consensus between all stakeholders on the major causes of land conflict. All issues were open for debate without taboos. Subsequently, the participants developed jointly an action plan to address principal issues related to land security. This plan was presented to the government. As further fine-tuning of the plan was still needed, a meeting was held in Kinshasa in September 2019, in which different concerned ministries finalized the Action Plan (AP).

This Action Plan broadly consists of four categories of activities:

  1. Reform of land regulations and policies
  2. Innovative actions
  3. Harmonization of laws
  4. Capacity development of government and civil society organizations

Addressing and preventing land tenure-related conflicts is part of a number of projects of the GL program. Major achievement is the introduction of group-titles facilitated by Maji ya Amani.

The Land Tenure Program will build on the success of the conference, the Action Plan and results of the GL projects on collective land titling. The program will focus on two major topics:

  1. Land tenure security
  2. Land access.

Land policy and land tenure security are very sensitive political topics. The buy-in of the government and other actors is a good start to further develop and pilot activities. Of course, the road to progress will be bumpy and challenging. However, the progress made so far has made it possible to discuss all issues related to land conflict and to start implementing activities that will further build support, and create possibilities, for progress on this important dossier.

Objectives of the Land Tenure program (LTP) in relation to GL program of the Netherlands (GLP):

The LTP will contribute to the general objective of the GLP: Improved stability in the Great Lakes Region and especially Eastern DRC.

The LTP will contribute specifically to the medium term objectives under the thematic areas Food Security (FS) and Peace, security and stability (PSS):

  • Improved land governance
  • More effective local conflict-resolution
  • More effective political engagement of Dutch and regional actors

ll. Land and Conflict

Land policy and addressing land-related problems are politically highly sensitive. As elsewhere in Africa, land in the DRC is not only an important –economic- asset but it is also linked to the history and identity of a community, clan or family. As has already been stated, it can serve as a trigger of conflict. The paradox, with which the program will be confronted, is that a substantial part of the actors, who have embraced land innovations, may not have the right incentives for changes.

Therefore, in order to set realistic goals for the program and adapt it if required, it will be crucial to keep track of, and, regularly analyse the political and economic processes with regard to land in Eastern DRC, as well as the concomitant contestation and bargaining between different groups and individuals regarding land policy and the distribution of land.

Major types of land related problems are:

    A. Legal duality affecting land tenure (contradictions between statutory and customary systems)

The national Land Law legislates land tenure. However, traditional leaders (Mwami) own and govern community land, which makes up most of the land in rural areas. This legal duality gives rise to conflicts whenever the government issues land titles on land that is under traditional management. Local customary rights are under-valued and often overruled by formal laws and titles. Consequently, local populations may lose their land and livelihood, which sometimes results in violent confrontations.

In some cases, customary leaders also use their control over land for their own financial gains, at the expense of their communities, in that they sell community land to private individuals. Evidently, this may also incite tensions and violence.

Reassessing the value of, and the protection of, traditional rights are therefore urgently needed. (Land tenure)

     B. Agriculture and cattle herding

As in many other countries in the region, agriculturists and livestock keepers clash over cattle grazing and passage rights. Due to increasing population pressure, agricultural fields are expanded, often at the cost of grazing areas and blocking passages for cattle herds. This touches upon the limitations of formal land rights and traditional systems of land use registration and securitisation.

     C. Lack of access because of concessions and large scale commercial agriculture

Land is scarce in the DRC. Most of its rural population depends on agriculture for its livelihood. Access to land is under pressure, among other things, due to:

  • Rapid population growth;
  • Widespread presence of concessions (old and new ones);
  • An agricultural policy that stimulates agricultural development through large commercial farms.

Land concessions allocated to individuals, are often not properly developed. It seems that they are sometimes kept as a means of speculation. As a result, rural populations lose their means of subsistence while no or very limited economic development and job creation are offered in return. This gives rise to tense relations between communities and concessionaries. It is argued that land grabbing may lead to that youths join Armed Groups as a last resort.

Large concessions in eastern DRC that have been developed, in general show low levels of productivity and generate less employment than smallholder agriculture does. Concessions are often not used in ways that contribute to economic development and are in many cases not used conform the purpose and criteria to which they are assigned by law.

This implies that government policies stimulating large-scale agriculture might not be the best option for a conflict region where economic opportunities and jobs outside agriculture are virtually non-existent.

Addressing the ownership of large estates is a politically sensitive matter. Sometimes concessions are allocated for political and economic reasons. At the same time, the conference in Bukavu has made concessions a topic of discussion. All participants agreed that solutions need to be found that will make it possible to reclaim unproductive estates. The topic is part of the Action Plan.

Land security, by offering protection against land grabbing, can contribute to the reduction of land-related conflicts. Individual land titles are expensive and therefore out of the reach of smallholders. At the same time, customary land rights are not fully respected.

     D. Migration and returnees.

Conflict has caused many people in the eastern DRC to flee the country or seek shelter in other parts of the country. When they return they often find their houses and land occupied by others. This is equally a source of conflict.

lll. Outline of the Land Tenure Program

The objective of the program is to enhance access to land and improve land tenure security.

The program will  support titling of smallholder land, pilot innovations and alternative approaches, it will provide support for policy development and develop lobby and advocacy activities in relation to access to land and tenure security.

The program team will actively stimulate coordination with other programs and donors. It will assume a leading role in policy engagement on land related issues for the Great Lakes progam and its projects.

The program will build on the results of the projects mentioned above, the land conference and the action plan.

lll.1 Land tenure security

The section land tenure security will work on improved access of rural communities to land titles or traditional land certificates. The program will strengthen land tenure security in rural Eastern DRC through innovations in land titling and revaluation of traditional land rights.

The program will support the implementation of concrete land titling activities, provide technical and policy support.

The project will support the issuing of traditional land certificates and support the process to revalue those certificates.

This program section will consist of the following clusters:

III.1.1 Cluster collective-titles for rural land and other innovative approaches to enhance land tenure security.

Issuance of group titles has been experimented by Maji ya Amani as a means to secure communities land. In addition, the collective-titles may enhance access to credit. This approach has been well received by all actors: farmers, local and national government. The approach is still in the experimental stage and needs to be mainstreamed. The costs related to this system of land titling needs to be affordable for small-scale farmers and communities. Therefore an important aspect of the land titlting activities will be to develop methods and support policy development that will lead to low-cost titles.

Collaboration with government agencies will be developed in a way that stimulates implementation instead of generic support.

Other innovations and forms of land titling will be developed and piloted when relevant and opportune.

The cluster will have the following result areas:

  1. Alternative land titles developed, piloted and integrated in policies and legislation.
  2. Affordable group-title procedures for local communities implemented by government
  3. Number of collective-land titles issued:
    • Number of titles between 100 and 200 has.
    • Number of titles above 200 has.
  4. Other innovative approaches to ensure land tenure for smallholders developed, implemented and adopted by the government at relevant level.
  5. Watershed developed of titled areas.

Regarding d: Support to watershed area development as an accompanying measure is integrated in the program to provide physical protection to the land and to stimulate economic development. This activity will not be directly implemented by the program staff: in areas where GL-FS/IWRM projects are active, these projects will ensure IWRM activities; in areas where no Great Lakes-IWRM projects are operating the program will subcontract watershed area development activities.

III.1.2 Cluster traditional land rights on rural land.

Traditional rights are not always respected, which can lead to conflicts. The program will develop activities and measures to enhance the value and status of traditional land rights.

Collaboration with the local authorities will be developed in a way that stimulates implementation instead of generic support.

The delimitation of different categories of land (agricultural, forestry, urban, community etc.) is an important step to allow customary land to be documented and registered. This delimitation is often cumbersome in practise and not well documented, wich may lead to mistakes in land titling.

Results areas:

  1. Status and recognition of customary land certificates upgraded in order to protect community land from land seizure .
  2. Develop and pilot an approach to facilitate delimitation of all customary land in chefferies.
  3. Customary rights incorporated in policies and legislation.
  4. Customary land certificates developed, issued and documented.
  5. Protected traditional land rights at community level by direct project interventions.

 III.2 Access to land and advocacy activities

Access to land is under pressure due to different reasons. The presence of large concessions is one of the causes. The topic was raised in the Bukavu conference and integrated in the Action Plan.

The conference concluded that lack of access to land and the existence of concessions is often linked. Also, that it is essential to have concrete data to develop policy and facilitate decision making. An inventory of the concessions and their status is important as a basis for policy development and evidence based advocacy. Therefore the program will support the development and roll out of this kind of inventories.

Access to land is also an issue that is linked to the vision on agricultural development in DRC. The present policy seems to favor large-scale development to boost agriculture. In eastern DRC, with its specific problems caused by land-related conflicts, this policy might lead to increased conflict. The action plan mentions therefore the need to redefine the vision on agricultural development in DRC in order to reduce land conflicts in the East. From the perspective of stability and security, small scale agriculture seems the best option to create jobs and enable inclusive economic development.

The program will lobby to reopen the discussion on this aspect of the government’s agricultural policy and support the process of amendment. .

The progam will identify other relevant topics that are important to boost land security and access by smallholders. The action plan can be a source of ideas, just like the other GL and the I4S projects. (I4S= International Security and Stabilization Support Strategy, Monusco).

The program will develop tools and discussion papers on those topics and, if relevant, pilot activities and lead lobby and advocacy activities.   

This program section will have the following results areas:

  1. Agreement and implementation of an inventory of concessions, including their state of development and legal status.

  2. Revised agricultural policy that reflects land conflict related challenges, and supports small-scale development.

  3. Identification of topics that are key to the resolution of land conflicts and to enhance access to land for communities and smallholders.

  4. Acceptance by government of developed tools and innovations to enhance land security and access for smallholders.

  5. Develop and implement succesfull advocacy strategies on key strategic topics.

Collaboration and support to other projects

a. Coordination

The program will keep a close eye on developments in the sector and build coalitions with other actors when relevant. The program will actively reach out to other agencies and donors operating or entering the sector in order to seek collaboration and develop synergies.

b. Technical support to other projects

The land program will closely work together with projects of the GL program in the field of food security and integrated water management (FS/IWRM) and security & rule of law (S&RoL). The program will assist these projects, for example, with:

  1. Technical support on land-related issues, for example, support for collective-titles in watershed development activities.
  2. Provide support to, and use results of ESPER (S&RoL project working on security). This project has started in its former phase to initiate discussions on the inventory of concessions.
  3. Provide support to the Stabilisation Support Unit of Monusco (SSU) for political engagement on land related issues
  4. Perform a coordinating role in land-related Lobby & Advocacy for the GL program and beyond.

The FS/IWRM projects will support this land tenure program with watershed development related activities in their zones of intervention.

The collaboration with other Great Lakes projects will be formalised in the agreement.

Way of working

Land tenure security and access to land are sensitive topics in many countries. In DRC there are specific problems and tensions related to land that makes it important to address land related conflicts, but also challenging. In particular, the circumstances in the Eastern Congo are not very conducive to development. Interests may differ between stakeholders, and within stakeholder groups. Wishful thinking might not get you far. What is needed is an innovating but realistic and pragmatic approach to the problems associated with working in this topic in the DRC. Without it nothing much will be achieved. Therefore:

Reality check. Given the circumstances in Eastern Congo and the main objective of the Great Lakes program, the most important thing for the population is a tangible contribution to more public safety and security.

Interventions to improve land tenure security and access to land are crucial to in this respect.

Conflict sensitivity. The topic of the program is highly sensitive and a cause of conflict. In addition, the geographical areas under consideration suffer from persistent insecurity. Conflict sensitivity is therefore key to achieving lasting results. There is deep mistrust among ethnic and political groups. Regularly revisiting the conflict and actor analysis and mechanisms to monitor the developments in this field and the impact on project activities are needed.

Looking behind the façade. A technical approach will not do. The prevailing mode of political and socioeconomic interaction is a (neo-)patrimonial one. This system permeates all levels of society in the DRC up to the highest political echelons. A clear understanding of the client-patron relations is crucial for formulating a sensible approach.

Local government structures. They are at the same time part of the problem and of the solution. In spite of the limited capacity and weak institutional environment, creating parallel structures is not an option. As they can only do so much, prioritization is essential.

Other relevant programs. Collaboration with other relevant programs and projects in the geographic areas under consideration is not optional. Creating tangible and demonstrable synergy with at least Dutch financed projects like ESPER, Radio Benevolencia, the future Food Security and Integrated Water Resources Management and SSU Monusco – with support of the Dutch embassy- is a condition sine qua non.

Sustainability. Right from the start provisions should be built into the program to promote sustainability after the termination of the intervention; financially, institutionally as well in terms of capacity and ownership.

Risks. Taking into account the difficult circumstances under which the program will have to operate, a clear and realistic description of the risks and possible mitigating measures should get the attention it deserves.

Implementation modalities

The program will work on the above-mentioned components, with implementation of field activities in North and South Kivu and engagement with the government on policies in both provinces as well as in Kinshasa. It is anticipated that staff will be stationed mainly in the two provinces with frequent travel to Kinshasa. A staff member may be stationed in Kinshasa to ensure daily communication with relevant ministries, Conaref and international organisations.

The GLP finances activities in different thematic areas, collaboration between these projects is actively stimulated. This implies that, where possible, the Land Tenure program will concentrate its field activities in the territories of Masisi, Rutshuru and Nyiragongo in North Kivu and Uvira and Kalehe in South Kivu. However, the program will have the possibility to work outside these areas when concrete possibilities to pilot and implement activities manifest themselves. This will often depend on the interest of, and collaboration with the provincial and local governments.

The program will develop a constructive working relation with the different levels of government. The program will to a large extent support the government to implement the field activities as specified above. This support will be designed in a way that stimulates actual implementation.

Policy related activities will be developed as much as possible in collaboration with the relevant government organisations.

A dedicated specialist team will implement the program. The organisation that will put the team in place will facilitate its performance and stimulate pro-active and innovative approaches; it will particularly safeguard the team from excessive administrative requirements. The team will be composed of international and national experts that have profound knowledge on land-related conflicts in Eastern DRC and who were, preferably, involved in the land conference held in Bukavu and/or have profound knowledge on the topics discussed.

Land tenure related activities touch on the interests of many stakeholders. Therefore a political and conflict sensitive approach is required by the program, based, amongst others, on a regularly conducted political economy and actor analysis and reflections with key knowledge bearers.

The embassy may at any time monitor or provide backstopping to the program. The embassy will closely monitor and, if required, give directions to the program on strategy, implementation and collaboration with other projects. The creation of a group of experts to monitor the project is considered. The project team will provide all required information to the embassy, monitors and GL projects, and reflect in a constructive manner on its own performance.

The program will be part of the Cluster Food Security and Integrated Water Resource Management of the GL program, managed by the Netherlands Embassy in Kigali. For this program the Netherlands Embassy in Kinshasa and its office in Goma will be involved as well.

The maximum budget is  7,3 million euro for a four year period.

Selection criteria

The embassy will select one or two concept notes for elaboration into a full proposal, maximum one proposal will be funded. Please make sure that your concept note is organised and presented in a way that will faciltate the assessment by the embassy on the criteria for selection.

The selection criteria are:

1. Organisation:

  • Relevant experience of the organisation with land tenure security and land conflicts, preferably in Eastern DRC.
  • Evidence of the organisation’s capacity to implement sensitive projects, in a politically complex environment.
  • Evidence of the organisation’s capacity and flexibility to field a well-performing team and to adapt the team when necessary.

2. Quality of the concept note:

  • Evidence of understanding and endorsement of (1) the concept and vision of the GL program on land security and (2) the program sections.
  • Understanding of the local context and its challenges and opportunities.
  • Conflict and actor analysis of land tenure in relation to the focus of the program.
  • Local conflict and actor analysis for the two provinces and how the project will engage with it.
  • Description of how the program will ensure a conflict sensitive approach, providing proof of a thorough understanding of land-related conflicts and their causes in Eastern DRC.
  • Implementation strategy for the main sections of the program.
  • Outcomes and related outputs and activities.
  • Strategy for Lobby and Advocacy.
  • Approach to :
    1. work together with the different levels of government.
    2. realise collaboration with other Great Lakes projects.
    3. coordinate with international organisations, donors and implementing organisation.
    4. assume a coordinating role in land-related Lobby & Advocacy for the GL program and beyond.
  • Approach to ensure sustainability of the project results.
  • Realistic estimation of the number of beneficiaries the project will reach.
  • Budget, indication of major budget categories such as:
    • Staff costs
    • Implementation costs (minimal 55% of the budget)
    • Logistics and other office costs
    • Indirect/overhead (including oversight, administration and management costs by head office) (maximum 12%)

3. Evidence of appropriate knowledge of the legal framework of land tenure in DRC and the ongoing land reform.

4. Program team:

  • The proposed functions in the team cover the different subject matters of the program.
  • Capacity of the team to perform, assess and translate political economy studies in the activities of the project.
  • The senior team members have over 10 years proven experience and knowledge in their field of expertise and with land tenure related conflicts.
  • The teamleader has over 10 years international experience with land tenure security and access to land. Indicate the relevance of that experience for the DRC.
  • Network of the team in DRC.
  • CV’s of the candidates for the two lead positions (teamleader and head of Bukavu or Goma office). The proposed candidates need to be available for the implementation of the project. If, due to delays at the embassy, no contract or agreement has been concluded within 4 months of submitting the concept note, a replacement can be proposed if needed.
  • Evidence that the team can perform under stress and political pressure.